This paper analyses the concept of empirical ethics as well as three meta-ethical fallacies that empirical ethics is said to face: the is-ought problem, the naturalistic fallacy and violation of the fact-value distinction. Moreover, it answers the question of whether empirical ethics (necessarily) commits these three basic meta-ethical fallacies.
Nanotechnology is a swiftly developing field of technology that is believed to have the potential of great upsides and excessive downsides. In the ethical debate there has been a strong tendency to strongly focus on either the first or the latter. As a consequence ethical assessments of nanotechnology tend to radically diverge. Optimistic visionaries predict truly utopian states of affairs. Pessimistic thinkers present all manner of apocalyptic visions. Whereas the utopian views follow from one-sidedly focusing on the potential benefits of (...) nanotechnology, the apocalyptic perspectives result from giving exclusive attention to possible worst-case scenarios. These radically opposing evaluations hold the risk of conflicts and unwanted backlashes. Furthermore, many of these drastic views are based on simplified and outdated visions of a nanotechnology dominated by self-replicating assemblers and nanomachines. Hence, the present state of the ethical debate on nanotechnology calls for the development of more balanced and better-informed assessments. As a first step in this direction this contribution presents a new method of framing the ethical debate on nanotechnology. Thus, the focus of this paper is on methodology, not on normative analysis. (shrink)
The objective of this article is to analyse and compare four methods of ethical case deliberation. These include Clinical Pragmatism, The Nijmegen Method of ethical case deliberation, Hermeneutic dialogue, and Socratic dialogue. The origin of each method will be briefly sketched. Furthermore, the methods as well as the related protocols will be presented. Each method will then be evaluated against the background of those situations in which it is being used. The article aims to show that there is not one (...) ideal method of ethical case deliberation, which fits to all possible kinds of moral problems. Rather, as each of the methods highlights a limited number of morally relevant aspects, each method has its strengths and weaknesses as well. These strengths and weaknesses should be evaluated in relation to different types of situations, for instance moral problems in treatment decisions, moral uneasiness and residue, and the like. The suggestion arrived at on the basis of the findings of this paper is a reasonable methodological plurality. This means that a method can be chosen depending on the type of moral problem to be deliberated upon. At the same time it means, that by means of a method, deliberation should be facilitated. (shrink)
This paper explores the relevance of the debate about ethical expertise for the practice of clinical ethics. We present definitions, explain three theories of ethical expertise, and identify arguments that have been brought up to either support the concept of ethical expertise or call it into question. Finally, we discuss four theses: the debate is relevant for the practice of clinical ethics in that it (1) improves and specifies clinical ethicists' perception of their expertise; (2) contributes to improving the perception (...) of moral competence of non-ethicists; (3) gives insight into complementary styles of argumentation of ethicists and non-ethicists; and (4) contributes to the awareness of the problem of profession-building of (clinical) ethicists. (shrink)
This reply to Giles Scofield's critique of the authors' article in the June 2008 issue of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal highlights two main topics. First, contrary to what Scofield suggests, using the terms "ethics" and "morality" interchangeably constitutes an oversimplification that blurs important distinctions. Second, in a representative democracy, ethical expertise and consultation need not generate a "tragic choice" of the kind Scofield has in mind.
Ambient assisted living technologies can provide assistance and support to persons with dementia. They might allow them the possibility of living at home for longer whilst maintaining their comfort and security as well as offering a way towards reducing the huge economic and personal costs forecast as the incidence of dementia increases worldwide over coming decades. However, the development, introduction and use of AAL technologies also trigger serious ethical issues. This paper is a systematic literature review of the on-going scholarly (...) debate about these issues. More specifically, we look at the ethical issues involved in research and development, clinical experimentation, and clinical application of AAL technologies for people with dementia and related stakeholders. In the discussion we focus on: the value of the goals of AAL technologies, the special vulnerability of persons with dementia in their private homes, the complex question of informed consent for the usage of AAL technologies. (shrink)
This contribution focuses on two claims advanced by the proponents of the project of “Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance.” Firstly, it is maintained that this project represents something genuinely new and quite unique. Secondly, it is argued that the future prospects of the project are extraordinarily positive. In order to critically assess both claims this paper first focuses on the question of whether there is actually anything genuinely new about the project of improving human performance by means of converging (...) NBIC technologies. In addition it is analyzed whether the project warrants that we be optimistic about its future prospects. (shrink)
In genomic research the ideal standard of free, informed, prior, and explicit consent is believed to restrict important research studies. For certain types of genomic research other forms of consent are therefore proposed which are ethically justified by an appeal to the common good. This notion is often used in a general sense and this forms a weak basis for the use of weaker forms of consent. Here we examine how the notion of the common good can be related to (...) individual health, health care, and genomic research and we use this analysis to propose more precise criteria to justify forms of consent which diverge from the ideal standard. (shrink)
In this article, the question is discussed if and how Healthcare Ethics Committees (HECs) should be regulated. The paper consists of two parts. First, authors from eight EC member countries describe the status quo in their respective countries, and give reasons as to the form of regulation they consider most adequate. In the second part, the country reports are analysed. It is suggested that regulation of HECs should be central and weak. Central regulation is argued to be apt to improve (...) HECs’ accountability, relevance and comparability. To facilitate biomedical citizenship and ethical reflection, regulation should at the same time be weak rather than strict. Independence of HECs to deliberate about ethical questions, and to give solicited and unsolicited advice, should be supported and only interfered with by way of exception. One exception is when circumstances become temporary adversarial to ethical deliberation in healthcare institutions. In view of European unification, steps should be taken to develop consistent policies for both Eastern and Western European countries. (shrink)
The rapid evolution of information, communication and entertainment technologies will transform the lives of citizens and ultimately transform society. This paper focuses on ethical issues associated with the likely convergence of virtual realities and social networks, hereafter VRSNs. We examine a scenario in which a significant segment of the world’s population has a presence in a VRSN. Given the pace of technological development and the popularity of these new forms of social interaction, this scenario is plausible. However, it brings with (...) it ethical problems. Two central ethical issues are addressed: those of privacy and those of autonomy. VRSNs pose threats to both privacy and autonomy. The threats to privacy can be broadly categorized as threats to informational privacy, threats to physical privacy, and threats to associational privacy. Each of these threats is further subdivided. The threats to autonomy can be broadly categorized as threats to freedom, to knowledge and to authenticity. Again, these three threats are divided into subcategories. Having categorized the main threats posed by VRSNs, a number of recommendations are provided so that policy-makers, developers, and users can make the best possible use of VRSNs. (shrink)
This article discusses the latest developments regarding euthanasia and palliative care in the Netherlands. On the one hand, a legally codified practice of euthanasia has been established. On the other hand, there has been a strong development of palliative care. The combination of these simultaneous processes seems to be rather unique. This contribution first focuses on these remarkable developments. Subsequently, the analysis concentrates on the question of how these new developments have influenced the ethical debate.
In this paper the moral responsibility of a Healthcare Organization (HCO) is conceived as an inextricable aspect of the identity of the HCO. We attempt to show that by exploring this relation a more profound insight in moral responsibility can be gained. Referring to Charles Taylor we explore the meaning of the concept of identity. It consists of three interdependent dimensions: a moral, a dialogical, and a narrative one. In section two we develop some additional arguments to apply his concept (...) of personal identity to organizations. The final section works out the relationship of three dimensions of identity to some actual issues in contemporary HCOs: the tension between care and justice, the importance of dialogues about the diversity of goods, and the relevance of becoming familiar with the life-story of the HCO. Identity of an HCO is established and developed in commitments to and identification with certain goods that are central for a HCO. However, many of these goods are interwoven with everyday practices and policies. Therefore, moral responsibility asks for articulation of goods that often stay implicit and should not be reduced to a merely procedural approach. However difficult this articulation may be, if it is not tried at all HCOs run the risk of drifting away from their very identity as healthcare institutions: to offer care to patients and to do this in accordance with demands of social justice. (shrink)
Definition of the problem: The Dutch policy regarding euthanasia has been causing amazement in other countries over and over again: Although euthanasia is illegal in the Netherlands, there are cases of euthanasia in which no criminal prosecution follows. The latter are regulated actively and in public by the Dutch authorities. In other countries certain cases of euthanasia are sometimes tolerated as well, however, there it is in most cases merely tacitly consented to. In contrast to these countries, in the Netherlands (...) it is declared in advance under which conditions physicians do not need to fear criminal prosecution of their illegal actions. How can this peculiar Dutch policy be explained?Arguments: The Dutch policy concerning euthanasia is a typical example of a policy of pragmatical tolerance. This societal phenomenon is typically Dutch and can best be explained from a historical perspective.Conclusion: The historical roots of this policy of pragmatical tolerance can be found in the Dutch republic of the 17th century, where two dominant and sometimes rather opposite societal forces influenced the Dutch mentality and policy. The merchants wanted peace and freedom through a policy of tolerance, exemptions and compromises. The calvinists, on the other hand, strove for normative regulation of all human behaviour corresponding to their rigid moral standards. These two forces constituted the Dutch policy of pragmatical tolerance: on the one hand certain criminal acts remained unpunished, on the other hand certain conditions for immunity from criminal prosecution were formulated in advance and in public by the authorities. As such the practice of tolerance of illegal deeds was normatively regulated. This typically Dutch form of tolerance still exerts an important influence on the present policy of euthanasia in the Netherlands. (shrink)
Introducing a special issue of a journal is a difficult, but pleasurable task for any editor. One must chose what to say about the themes of the issue, and how to introduce the papers presented. However, this task becomes still more complex when the special issue in question forms the inaugural issue of a new journal. This is the case here as we find ourselves introducing "Questions in Human Enhancement" as the inaugural issue of Studies in Ethics, Law and Technology. (...) As such, this editorial serves two purposes: first we must introduce the journal itself, exploring our motivations for creating a new, quasi-open access, interdisciplinary publishing forum; and second we must introduce a stunning collection of comments, articles and discussion papers that have been written by a range of eminent scholars from across the globe. (shrink)
Autonomy seems to be a core issue for lifelogging technology as it can influence our understanding as well as our personal freedom but a comprehensive discussion on the effect of it on the autonomy of the lifelogger and others affected seems still missing in the current academic debate. In this article we provide a preliminary inquiry into this topic. First, the concept of lifelogging will be briefly clarified. In a lifelog, different data sources are combined in an archive that can (...) be used to retrieve information about the lifelogger and the environment in which the lifelogger is situated. Second, we will discuss the effect of lifelogs on an element of autonomy, namely understanding. Lifelogs can both advance understanding as well as hinder it. Information of lifelogs is the result of social processes that can bias information and can be used to manipulate lifeloggers. Third, we will discuss another aspect of autonomy, namely being free from controlling influences. Also on this level the effect of lifelogs is ambiguous. Fourth, we will discuss the conditions under which prospective lifelogger become lifeloggers. By discussing both the effect of lifelogs on autonomy as well as joining the community of lifeloggers we aim to show the many ways in which lifelogs can compromise and advance autonomy. Fifth, some recommendations are provided that aim to address the above mentioned concerns. (shrink)
Dutch euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide stand on the eve of important legal changes. In the summer of 1999, a new government bill concerning euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide was sent to Parliament for discussion. This bill legally embodies a ground for exemption from punishment for physicians who conduct euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide and comply with certain requirements. On November 28, 2000, the Dutch parliament approved an adapted version of this bill. Since the approval by the Dutch Senate can be regarded as (...) a formality, it is expected that the bill will come into force in the course of this year (2001). In this paper we discuss these new developments. (shrink)
Definition of the problem: Cord blood banks have been and are still being set up in many modern states all over the world. Cord blood transplantation, however, gives rise to a specific set of ethical problems, that must be cleared up and analyzed before full responsibility can be assumed and the establishment of banks for frozen cord blood samples and the structural implementation of cord blood transplantation can be justified. The main ethical issues concerning cord blood stem cell transplantation can (...) be divided into at least six groups of questions that are closely related. First, there are ethical issues concerning the status of the treatment. Must cord blood transplantation somehow still be considered an „investigational” treatment or can it be regarded as accepted therapy? Second, we must face the question of the ownership of the placental tissue. Third, there are questions regarding the fairness in the collection and distribution of cord blood. Fourth, there is the issue of informed consent. Fifth, there is the question of whether how new data from medical testing will be communicated to the parents or the donor. Finally, questions related to privacy and confidentiality need to be addressed. Conclusion: As it is likely in the years to come that the supply and demand for cord blood will grow, clinicians will increasingly need answers to these ethical questions. Only thoughtful analysis of the attendant ethical issues of the establishment of banks for frozen blood samples and the structural implementation of cord blood transplantation can mitigate potential problems. (shrink)
Definition of the Problem: The ethical debate on the cloning of human beings is by no means new. Its history goes back to the middle of the 1960s. However, the theoretical level of the contents of this debate still doesn't seem to have got past its initial stages.Arguments and conclusion: First, a short overview will be given of these 30 years of history of ethical debate, and some central concepts will be explained. Subsequently a critical analysis will be made of (...) the arguments for and against the cloning of people which are used in this debate. The intention of this exposition is to stimulate further ethical discussion on the cloning of human beings. (shrink)
Solidarity belongs to the basic principles of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) and is part of the ethical repertoire of European moral traditions and European healthcare systems. This paper discusses how leaders of Catholic healthcare organizations (HCOs) can understand their institutional moral responsibility with regard to the preservation of solidarity. In dealing with this question, we make use of Taylor's philosophy of modern culture. We first argue that, just as all HCOs, Catholic ones also can embody and strengthen solidarity by just (...) doing their quintessential job, that is, to care for people with ill health. Second, we focus on the Catholic identity of these organizations and argue that this characteristic can empower a radical commitment to solidarity. Finally, we argue that CST provides a critical ethical framework for approaching solidarity from the perspective of the common good. (shrink)
This editorial explores the concept of ethics, law and technology within the context of policymaking. It draws upon the concepts of argument, concern and risk, alongside a presentation of the importance of utilizing a broad range of methods and perspectives in research in order to ensure good quality governance.
In a lifelog, data from various sources are combined to form a record from which one can retrieve information about oneself and the environment in which one is situated. It could be considered similar to an automated biography. Lifelog technology is still at an early stage of development. However, the history of lifelogs so far shows a clear academic, corporate and governmental interest. Therefore, a thorough inquiry into the ethical aspects of lifelogs could prove beneficial to the responsible development of (...) this field. This article maps the main ethically relevant challenges and opportunities associated with the further development of lifelog technologies as discussed in the scholarly literature. By identifying challenges and opportunities in the current debate, we were able to identify other challenges and opportunities left unmentioned. Some of these challenges are partly explained by a blind spot in the current debate. Whilst the current debate focuses mainly on lifelogs held by individuals, lifelogs held by governmental institutions and corporations pose idiosyncratic ethical concerns as well. We have provided a brief taxonomy of lifelog technology to show the variety in uses for lifelogs. In addition, we provided a general approach to alleviate the ethical challenges identified in the critical analysis. (shrink)
When we founded Studies in Ethics, Law and Technology we wondered if we might, like Icarus, be trying to fly too close to the sun. Had we set ourselves an impossible task in seeking to create a new community of interdisciplinary scholars under the umbrella of the words ethics, law and technology? Would expert scholars in biotechnologies, nanotechnologies, neurotechnologies, information technologies, weapons and security technologies, energy and fuel technologies, space based technologies, and/or new media and communication technologies all come together (...) in one place? As we show in this editorial, the answer is yes. (shrink)
In pluralistic modern societies, moral dissent will, to an increasing extent, be an inescapable fact in our lives. Moral dissent, however, involves various serious dangers: escalation of conflicts, the use of violence, flourishing of radical extremism and even civil war. There are basically two ways in which these threats can be addressed: coercive enforcement of consensus or tolerance. First, we could try to eliminate moral dissent by using more dictatorial forms of consensus formation, like propaganda, indoctrination and terror. This, however, (...) would endanger or even destroy the open society. Therefore, from a moral point of view, tolerance appears to be the more desirable antidote to the unwanted effects of moral dissent. This paper aims to contribute to the discussions about the regulation of moral dissent and the formation of moral consensus by analyzing one of the most important and idiosyncratic elements of the Dutch way of handling these issues: pragmatic tolerance. First, some general thoughts are developed about moral consensus, moral dissent and tolerance as a means of regulating dissent. In addition, the characteristic Dutch policy of pragmatic tolerance is described. Finally, some of the pros and cons of pragmatic tolerance are analyzed from an ethical perspective. (shrink)